Difference Between Descriptive and Experimental Research

The main difference between descriptive and experimental research is that the descriptive research describes the characteristics of the study group or a certain occurrence while the experimental research manipulates the variables to arrive at conclusions.

Descriptive research and experimental research are two types of research people use when doing varied research studies. Both these research types have their own methods that facilitate the researcher to gain maximum outcomes.

Key Areas Covered

1. What is Experimental Research
     – Definition, Aim, Methods
2. What is Experimental Research
     – Definition, Aim, Methods
3. What is the Difference Between Descriptive and Experimental Research 
     – Comparison of Key Differences

Key Terms

Descriptive Research, Experimental Research, Research

Difference Between Descriptive and Experimental Research - Comparison Summary

What is Descriptive Research

Descriptive research is a type of research that studies the participants that take part in the research or a certain situation. Descriptive research does not limit to either of quantitative or qualitative research methodologies, but instead, it uses elements of both, often within the same study. Therefore, a descriptive researcher often uses three major ways to collect and analyse the data. They are observations, case studies and surveys.

Descriptive studies are aimed at finding out “what is,” therefore, observational and survey methods are frequently used to collect descriptive data (Borg & Gall, 1989). Thus, the main focus of descriptive research is to answer the question ‘what’ with concern to the study group. Moreover, descriptive research, primarily concerned with finding out “what is,” that might be applied to investigate the particular study group or the situation. Therefore,  descriptive research does not give answers to the cause and effect of the particular occurrence that is studied. 

Difference Between Descriptive and Experimental Research

Therefore, descriptive research assists to make specific conclusions regarding situations such as marketing products according to the needs of the customers, to estimate the percentages of units in a specified population according to a certain behaviour, etc. Some examples of descriptive researches include population census and product marketing surveys.

What is Experimental Research?

Experimental research is the research study where the scientist actively influences something to observe the consequences. Experimental research uses manipulation and controlled testing to understand causal processes. Therefore, in this type of research, the researcher manipulates one given variable and controls the others to come to a conclusion.

This type of research typically includes a hypothesis, a variable that can be manipulated, measured, calculated and compared. Eventually, the collected data and results will either support or reject the hypothesis of the researcher. Therefore, one could call this research type as a true experiment.

Main Difference - Descriptive vs Experimental Research

In this research type, the researcher manipulates the independent variables such as treatment method and teaching methodology, and measures the impact it has on the dependent variables such as cure and student comprehension in order to establish a cause-effect relationship between these two variables. Therefore, this research type can answer the questions of cause, effect and results, thus, making it possible to make hypothetical assumptions based on the gathered data. Therefore, unlike descriptive research which answers’ what is’, experimental research answers the question ‘what if’. Therefore, usually, this type of research uses quantitative data collection methodology.

Evidently, this type of research is mostly conducted in a controlled environment, usually a laboratory. Experimental research is mostly used in sciences such as sociology and psychology, physics, chemistry, biology, medicine, etc.

Difference Between Descriptive and Experimental Research

Definition

Descriptive research is the type of research where characteristics of the study group or a certain occurrence are described while experimental research is the research type that manipulates variables to come to a conclusion. This is the main difference between descriptive and experimental research.

Use

Descriptive research is useful in gathering data on a certain population or a specific occurrence while experimental research is useful in finding out the cause-effect of a causal relationship, correlation etc

Focus

The aim of the descriptive research is to describe the characteristics of the study group, thus answering the question ‘what is’ while the aim of the experimental research is to manipulate the given variables so as to support or reject the assumed hypothesis. Hence it answers the question ‘what if’.

Type of Studies

Descriptive research typically includes sociological and psychological studies while experimental research typically includes forensic studies, biological and other laboratory studies, etc.

Data Collection

Descriptive research uses both qualitative and quantitative methodologies while experimental research primarily uses quantitative methodology.

Conclusion

Descriptive and experimental research are two significant types of research. Both these research types are helpful in analysing certain occurrences and study groups. The main difference between descriptive and experimental research is that descriptive research describes the characteristics of the research subject while the experimental research manipulates the research subject or the variables to come to a conclusion. Similarly, descriptive research answers the question ‘what is’ while experimental research answers the question ‘what if’.

Reference:

1. “Descriptive Research.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 19 June 2018, Available here.
2. “WHAT IS DESCRIPTIVE RESEARCH?”, The Handbook of Research for Educational Communications and Technologies, Available here.
3. ” Descriptive Research Design: Definition, Examples & Types” Study.com, Available here.
4. “Experimental Research – A Guide to Scientific Experiments.” Observation Bias, Available here.
5. Wattoo, Shafqat. “Experimental Research.” LinkedIn SlideShare, 3 Feb. 2012, Available here.

Image Courtesy:

1. “Survey” (Public Domain) via PublicDomainPictures.net
2. “Experiment Pasteur English” By Carmel830 – Own work (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia

About the Author: Upen

Upen, BA (Honours) in Languages and Linguistics, has academic experiences and knowledge on international relations and politics. Her academic interests are English language, European and Oriental Languages, Internal Affairs and International Politics, and Psychology.

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